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Why Choose a Career in Medical Assisting

by South University
August 30, 2017
A photo of a woman talking with a healthcare professional, perhaps a medical assistant.

If you're considering pursuing a career in healthcare, medical assisting can allow you to do meaningful work that matters in your community. Medical assistants play an essential role in the day-to-day operations of healthcare facilities and are often among the first and last people a patient sees at their check-ups or doctor's appointments. If you think the healthcare field could be right for you, here are three reasons why medical assisting is a great place to start.

1. Medical assisting is more than just a job. It's an important healthcare career.

Medical assisting is a rewarding healthcare career that can give you the chance to contribute to patient health and care as you support physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals. Medical assistants often interact with patients and, with an upbeat attitude and positive demeanor, can help to keep patients feeling at ease and smiling during a physician’s visit that might otherwise be stressful. In fact, when South University recently checked in with our Associate of Science in Medical Assisting 2014 and 2015 graduates from our Montgomery, Savannah, and Columbia campuses, they reported a 100% graduate satisfaction rate.

As a medical assistant, you’ll also be learning a lot about the healthcare field, and, in time, may find opportunities for advancement into roles like medical office or records manager, healthcare administrator, or other related jobs.

2. Medical assisting encompasses many duties, keeping you engaged and on your toes.

As a medical assistant, you may perform a diverse mix of administrative and clinical responsibilities. On the administrative side, you might schedule appointments, greet patients, update electronic health records, and handle billing and insurance. Clinical duties can include recording patient information and history, instructing patients on medications, checking vital signs, preparing blood samples, conducting basic lab tests, and assisting the doctor before and during a patient exam. In some states, medical assistants may also give patients injections or medications as instructed by the physician.

Medical assistants can work in a variety of care facilities, with most having full-time schedules while others have the option to work part-time instead. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), almost 60% of medical assistants work in physician's offices, with an additional 10% working in offices of other health practitioners. If you work in a physician's or practitioner's office, you’re likely to work a predictable schedule as most clinics and offices open during standard business hours, allowing you to more easily plan and schedule time with family and friends. Other large employers of medical assistants include hospitals and outpatient care centers.

3. Employment of medical assistants is growing faster than average.

According to the BLS, medical assistant employment is expected to increase 23% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the 7% average across all occupations. Medical assistant employment growth follows the general growth of the healthcare industry and the increasing need for support workers at healthcare facilities. By 2024, the BLS projects that 730,200 medical assistants will be employed in the US, compared to the 591,300 medical assistants counted in 2014. Such an increase in demand can provide workers with increased career stability and the knowledge that, no matter where they are in the country, medical assistants will be needed.

How to Prepare for Your Medical Assisting Career

At South University, our medical assisting associate's degree program can prepare you to begin working as a medical assistant in as little as 2 years. Learn more today about South University's medical assisting program available at our Columbia, Montgomery, and Savannah campuses.

See suprograms.info for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

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The Rising Value of a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

by South University
August 7, 2017

Today, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that only slightly more than half of all Registered Nurses (RNs) have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Yet, major professional organizations, including the National Academy of Medicine, are pushing for that number to reach 80% within the next four years.

Why Organizations Want RNs with a BSN

While 80% of RNs with a BSN is an ambitious goal, many organizations want to make it a reality. Why? They hope to increase the standard of care for their patients, and a growing body of research demonstrates improved clinical outcomes for nurses with higher education. These outcomes range from lower mortality rates to more accurate diagnoses.

Some hospitals may be further driven by a desire for the coveted Magnet Hospital designation, which requires that hospitals have a plan to ensure 80% of their RNs hold a BSN by 2020. The awarding committee also evaluates the current education of the nursing staff and expects all nurse managers to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

How a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Could Help You

While associate’s and diploma nursing programs focus primarily on the basics of clinical care, BSN programs offer a broader curriculum useful in diverse settings and cases. BSN programs can teach you communication, critical thinking, and leadership skills as well as prepare you to deliver more advanced patient care.

Employers recognize and value that difference, with the numbers clearly showing the value of a BSN to RNs on the job hunt. In 2016, the AACN found that nearly 98% of surveyed organizations strongly preferred hiring nurses with a bachelor's degree in nursing, while over 54% only hired RNs with a BSN. The US Army, Navy and Air Force, for example, require every active duty practicing RN to hold a BSN.

Having a bachelor's degree in nursing is also commonly a must-have for moving beyond basic clinical positions into administration, research, teaching, or other specialized nursing fields. This holds true in the Veteran's Administration (VA)—the single largest US employer for RNs—where nurses cannot be promoted out of entry-level positions without a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Earning a BSN can also lead to a jump in your salary. In 2017, Payscale.com reported that RNs with a BSN earned a median salary of $69,000, nearly $8,000 more than those without the degree. Beyond that, a bachelor’s degree in nursing can be a stepping stone to a master’s degree in nursing, which is required for advanced practice RNs.

Solutions for Working Nurses: RN to BSN Programs and Online Nursing Degrees

Without your RN status, earning a bachelor's degree in nursing would take, on average, four years. Luckily, RN to BSN programs can save RNs like you time and money. If you meet RN to BSN requirements, you could earn your BSN in under two years.

What's more, select schools allow you to earn nursing degrees online—giving you greater flexibility and control over your schedule. Your employer may even offer tuition reimbursement support for RN to BSN programs. Either way, investing in your education now could lead to more job and promotion opportunities and a higher salary in the future.

Author's Note: This article was originally published September 2016 and has been updated to reflect current research statistics and insights.

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Top 5 Reasons Why Cancer Prevalence is High Today

by South University
December 28, 2012

Medical studies are showing a massive increase in cancer patients. According to research conducted by the American Cancer Society, cancer costs more lost productivity than many diseases spread person to person, and the World Health Organization has predicted that in the near future, cancer will surpass heart disease as the top cause of death in the world. Here are the top 5 reasons why cancer prevalence is high today, and is expected to be higher in the near future if precautions are not taken.

Unhealthy eating
In these hard economic times, many people have been forced to take more than one job in order to be financially stable. Spending more time working consequently leads to shorter time allocated to performing other activities, including cooking. This has translated to unhealthy eating habits, such as eating junk food and processed meals. Such foods have high concentrations of chemicals that trigger cell oxidation and subsequently, the release of free radicals. This process triggers the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Exposure to carcinogenic substances
In June 2011, the US Department of Health and Human Services compiled an updated list of carcinogens. These included formaldehyde, captafol, glass wool fibers, riddelliine, and styrene. Some of these are found in plastics, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, food additives, resins, and herbal tea that we use on a regular basis.

Unhealthy lifestyle
A recent study, Cancer Facts and Figures 2012, shows that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States in 2012. The study also states that this is the most preventable type of cancer. Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as smoking and drinking alcohol have enhanced prevalence of cancer of the respiratory tract. Most lip, throat, lung, stomach, kidney and esophagus cancer cases are linked to tobacco and alcohol intake. With the number of both female and male smokers increasing, it is evident that we will have more cancer patients in the future.

Climate change
The environment has changed significantly over the years. Climate change and the green house effect means more hostile UV radiation from the sun as well as unfavorable environmental conditions. The increasing short-wave UV radiation has triggered an increase in skin cancer patients. A study by scientists at Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute revealed that the UV radiation is the major cause of most melanoma cases. Using new molecular technology, the scientists discovered thousands of gene mutations and damages that lead to cancer were caused by the sun's short-wave radiation.

Genetics
Some types of cancer are passed on from generation to generation within a family. Some families have had several members who have suffered from the same type of cancer.

References:

http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb/landmark-research-links-melanoma-to-uv-radiation

http://www.medindia.net/news/Experts-Cancer-Cause-in-Unhealthy-Diet-and-Lifestyle-Not-Mere-Genetic-Factors-50232-1.htm

http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsroom/releases/2011/june10/

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The Mobile Medical Technology Boom

by South University
February 29, 2012

Smartphones, iPhones, and tablet computers have changed health care.

Healthcare professionals use mobile devices to look up drug and treatment reference material; help choose treatment plans for patients; and help make diagnoses. Mobile technology offers them the accessibility and flexibility needed to better care for their patients.

Steve Martin, AGC, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA, associate professor in the Physician Assistant program at South University, Tampa, has been using mobile medical apps for many years, beginning on personal digital assistants (PDAs) and now on his Droid Bionic smartphone.

“I use Epocrates most often,” Martin says. “I use it to look up medications for my patients. It helps me to choose the correct dose and allows me to check potential interactions with other medications the patient might be taking.”

Epocrates is an app that provides information based on clinical drug referencing as well as knowledge to help manage clinical practices and patient safety. Martin also uses the Monthly Prescribing Reference (MPR) app to look up drug information, as well as Evernote, an app that allows him to keep personal notes on a variety of medical topics.

Martin also encourages his students to use apps for reference and to keep notes.

“Many physician assistant programs are now issuing students tablet PCs for use in the classroom,” he says. “Increasingly, students are using tablets in the classroom on their own to take and organize notes, communicate with instructors and classmates, and gain access to medical and other databases for information.”

This prospect of using mobile applications is beneficial in providing critical findings regarding a patient’s lab work, radiography, or other pertinent information to the healthcare provider immediately.

In medical practice, mobile phones and tablet computers are being used in many different ways to maximize patient care and efficiency.

“The ways technology is used can be broadly broken down into four main categories: clinical reference, medical calculator, accessing electronic medical records (EMR), and patient education,” says Tom Lewis, editor of iMedicalApps, an online publication for medical professionals, patients, and analysts interested in mobile medical technology and healthcare apps.

Lewis provides further details about the four main categories of medical apps:

  • Clinical Reference: This encompasses all manner of textbooks, web references, and medical literature management to ensure that clinicians have up-to-date information so they can make informed decisions about patient care.
  • Medical Calculators: Many healthcare professionals use medical calculators to accurately work out drug dosages and other formulae.
  • EMR Access: Many hospital EMR systems allow some form of web access which many doctors use to review patient notes, order tests, and arrange follow up.
  • Patient Education: This use of mobile technology is rapidly growing, Lewis says. Apps such as drawMD and the Orca Health Decide series allow physicians and surgeons to educate their patients and inform them about their procedures and pathology.

“This prospect of using mobile applications is beneficial in providing critical findings regarding a patient’s lab work, radiography, or other pertinent information to the healthcare provider immediately,” says Tricia Howard, an assistant professor at South University, Savannah and director of Academic Education, Physician Assistant program. “Should a healthcare practitioner be off site, the ability to send critical data reduces the response time between the provider and the patient’s needs, therefore improving patient care and reducing morbidity and mortality.”

Medical Technology and Patient Interaction

Mobile technology also offers great potential for patients to take greater control of their health. Many medical apps make health care a collaborative process as patients can work with practitioners to create a personalized health plan and keep track of patient information.

“I visualize the increasing use of medical apps as the Baby Boomer generation begins to age secondary to the need for immediate information in order to see numerous patients efficiently and proficiently,” Howard says.

However, Lewis says healthcare professionals must be careful when using a mobile device to reference clinical information in front of a patient.

“It may damage the trust the patient has in the doctor, especially if you are looking up actual pathology/learning about a particular topic whilst the patient is still in the room,” he says.

Security and Privacy

Martin has found the mobility and instant access of using a tablet for health care to be beneficial, but says there is room for improvement.

“Making smartphones and tablets ‘industrial strength’ is a big issue,” he says. “They are not necessarily built to last in a commercial environment, as are some laptops and PCs.”

Security and privacy are also big concerns when discussing technology in health care.

“Although we have passwords and virtual private networks to serve as protection for patient information, there is still the opportunity to view a non-patient’s electronic medical record,” Howard says. “Any advances we can make in the area of privacy would be advantageous for encouraging the use of mobile applications.”

Late last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced plans to regulate medical apps. The FDA will scrutinize medical apps that act as an accessory to a medical device and those that transform the mobile device into a medical device. Some of the apps that fall under the regulatory oversight are those that allow the user to view medical images and those that allow the user to view patient-specific lab results.

“I think that the regulation of medical apps by the FDA is an important step in the pathway that results in mobile technology development with respect to health care,” Lewis says. “FDA regulation will not affect the majority of medical app developers or the apps on the market. What the FDA is very rightly concerned about are apps that interpret information and, with little oversight, drive clinical decision making.”

As medical technology evolves, patient safety must remain the principal consideration for clinicians and should always be considered.

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